England defeats New Zealand in the Netball World Cup final for the first time.
England defeated defending champions New Zealand in a thrilling semi-final, 46-40, to advance to their first Netball World Cup final.
Jess Thirlby’s team fought tooth and nail with the Silver Ferns, with a last defensive charge led by Fran Williams and Imogen Allison driving England to a joyful triumph at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
The thrilling encounter and victory, which had Roses players in tears of joy at the end, assure England at least a silver medal from their trip to South Africa. They will meet the winner of the other semi-final on Saturday between Australia and Jamaica.
England entered their match against New Zealand with an unblemished tournament record, and Thirlby stuck with the starting seven that led them to a historic group-stage triumph over Australia.
“This team has had a lot of criticism in the last year, everyone deserves [this] so much,” Roses co-captain Layla Guscoth told Sky after the game. “We’re overjoyed to be able to play in a World Cup final… We celebrate, rest, and return tomorrow.”
A anxious first quarter began with both teams feeling their way into a game plagued with blunders early on, plainly indicating the gravity of the occasion. As the game progressed goal for goal, neither side appeared willing to punish the other.
Karin Burger’s successful intercept broke the deadlock, and when a searching feed from Laura Malcolm into Eleanor Cardwell exploded off the backline, the Ferns appeared to seize control. Guscoth’s rallying shouts prompted a fightback, and England found the ball they needed to draw the match 9-9 at halftime.
At the start of the second quarter, the Roses were the more aggressive of the two teams. An intercept by center Allison gave England the lead, which they carefully maintained until the last seconds of the first half. With less than a minute remaining, England coughed up the ball, allowing the Ferns to draw level once more.
Both teams’ arduous, unyielding defensive pressure persisted into the second half. The teams swapped punches for the majority of the 15 minutes, until goalkeeper Kelly Jury’s long arms enabled New Zealand take the lead.
England veteran Jade Clarke reacted with her own turnover with less than 20 seconds remaining, and clutch shooter Helen Housby didn’t hesitate to sink the ball from near the circle edge to tie the game at 32-32 going into the fourth quarter.
The thrilling match reached a climax in the final four minutes, when the game’s ebb and flow was finally stopped. Williams and Allison both intercepted “hail Mary” passes, giving England the crucial break and propelling the Roses to a six-point victory.
New Zealand, which was heavily favored to retain their title, could only watch as England players collapsed in astonishment and celebration. Their historic World Cup campaign in South Africa continues, with the triumphant sound of “Netball’s Coming Home” booming out.